Project Team Biocore

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Section: Application Domains

Biological control for plants and micro-plants production systems

This work concentrates on the protection of cultures of photosynthetic organisms against their pests or their competitors. The forms of cultures that we study are crop and micro-algae productions. In both cases, the devices are more or less open to the outside, depending on the application (greenhouse/field, photobioreactor/raceway) so that they may give access to invading species which can be harmful to the cultures; we opt for protecting the culture through the use of biocontrol agents which are, generically, natural enemies of these noxious populations [10] .

In crop production, biological control is indeed a very promising alternative to pesticide usage; the use of predators, parasitoids or pathogens of crop pests in order to fight them has many advantages with respect to environmental protection, health of the consumers and the producers, the limited development of resistance (compared to chemicals),... It is however not widespread yet because it often lacks efficiency in real-life crop production systems (while its efficiency in the laboratory is much higher) and can fail to be economically competitive. Our objective is to propose models that would help to explain which factors are locks that prevent the smooth transition from the laboratory to the agricultural crop as well as develop new methods for the optimal deployment of the pests natural enemies.

Microalgae production is faced with exactly the same problems since predators of the produced microalgae (e.g. zooplankton) or simply other species of microalgae can invade the photobioreactors and outcompete or eradicate the one that we wish to produce. Methods need therefore to be proposed for fighting the invading species; this could be done by introducing predators or other competing species of the pest and so keeping it under control; the design of such methods could greatly take advantage of our knowledge developed in crop protection since the problems and models are related.